Winner of the Peter Brook Empty Space Award

3 November 2015

We're delighted to have won the 2015 Peter Brook Empty Space Award! This follows 2 UK Theatre Awards and 5 Off West End Awards this year.

The award recognises smaller theatre spaces for their pioneering concepts and innovations. Voted for by leading critics, The Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish said at the Awards ceremony: 

"You’ve heard of ageism. What about area-ism? You know, the idea that somehow a neighbourhood is so well-heeled, so leafy and nice, that it’s the place cool people run a mile from and where creativity and excitement go to die. Take a stroll along the affluent streets of Richmond and I suspect that’s the knee-jerk prejudice you might easily form, if you were inclined to do so. And I think the Orange Tree theatre, so greatly loved, admired and attended by locals that its survival has been taken for granted in many quarters, has fallen victim to that dismissive attitude, even though looking back over its work since its inception in 1971, it has kept cutting against the grain, while flying the flag for quality on the fringe. 

Whatever pre-conceptions anyone has about this theatre, though, their ability to disdainfully leave it to its own devices has been dealt a resounding blow by Paul Miller since he took over as artistic director from Sam Walters. Here’s someone who not only hit the ground running, he did so as the earth beneath his feet was shaking with the tremors of a dumbfounding Arts Council funding cut. Showing a redoubtable Agincourt spirit he has fully reclaimed the theatre’s right to be on the map, made it in fact a destination venue. He has done so by building, boldly, skywards on the foundations of his predecessor, combining revivals with new work. And what revivals, what new work. Bernard Shaw, DH Lawrence, Doris Lessing, Sharman McDonald and most recently Terence Rattigan – a repertoire that tells us where we’ve been and who we’ve been, over the past century. And then writers who are telling us in complex, uncertain terms who we are becoming: the likes of Alice Birch, Deborah Bruce and Alistair McDowall whose head-spinning dystopian play Pomona was so inspired the National snapped it up – so good it was hailed in reputable academic quarters as the play of the decade. What does all this tell us about the leafy old Orange Tree? I think: that we had better have a big basket at the ready to catch the fruit. It looks like being quite a harvest."